More than a gut feeling: Bilberries are good for gastrointestinal and overall health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.4 million people in the United States suffer from ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, according to experiments based out of University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, eating bilberries can lessen the effects of these diseases by reducing inflammation and providing overall gastrointestinal relief. Certainly sounds better than depending on harmful anti-inflammatory or immune system-suppressing drugs, doesn’t it?
Bilberry gut experiments and healthful findings
In the experiment, mice were given dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) to induce colon inflammation which led to colitis. They were then broken into groups where each one was given meals with varying percentages of dried bilberries or anthocyanins (a water-soluble flavonoid) from bilberries.
The results? “Highly positive effects” in both chronic and acute forms of the disease were noted in each case. There were even instances where full recoveries were observed. According to the scientists, “Oral administration of bilberries during acute DSS-induced colitis ameliorated disease severity…. Dried bilberries also improved chronic DSS-colitis.” While these results were promising, it was noted that additional research should be taken to further study the effects of bilberry in helping people suffering from IBD.
Why bilberry does wonders for our gut and more
Bilberries, also referred to as “huckleberries,” are rich in flavonoids that protect cells. Filled with antioxidant properties, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) also recognizes the health value of the berry, supporting use of its extract for healing stomach ulcers.
Not only can bilberries help with gastrointestinal problems, but their ability to protect cells has also been linked to reversing eye disorders, such as macular degeneration, and combating stress-induced liver damage. In fact, it’s believed that care packages sent to soldiers during World War I often included jams made with bilberries and soldiers who ate the food noticed that their night vision improved dramatically.
Consumption of the tiny, purple/black berries plays a role in providing the body with a host of anticarcinogenic, antitumorigenic and anti-inflammatory benefits that can heal our circulatory and nervous system. Many health experts advocate eating bilberries, touting their ability to alleviate gut problems and many other conditions.